The strange case of Ötzi’s mummy

His nickname comes from Ötztal (Ötz valley). This is the section of the Italian Alps where it was discovered. It is the oldest natural human mummy in Europe. Today it has been 30 years since it was found. So we now remember the strange case of Ötzi’s mummy.

The strange case of Ötzi's mummy continues to fascinate us.
The strange case of Ötzi’s mummy continues to fascinate us.
Millennia of time

It was 1991. Some hikers found the remains of an individual in the alpine mountains of the Ötztal. Because of its good preservation, they believed it was a mountaineer who had died a few years earlier. The surprise afterwards was huge. The body was over 5,000 years old. Highly qualified research teams have carried out pioneering studies on the mummy. Thanks to this, a great amount of information has been revealed that brings us closer to our past.

Ötzi carries the traces of the characteristics that make us human: violence and illness. It is considered to be the oldest murder ever recorded. He has an arrowhead in his left shoulder, several broken ribs, and a head injury. All signs of a possible attack.

In his forties to fifties, Ötzi suffered from various diseases and severe arthritis. He also urgently needed the care of a dentist. The cavities, along with the recession of his gums, must have caused him severe pain. The study carried out at the level of the Ötzi intestinal tract showed that they were omnivores. The stomach contents samples were animal muscle fibers (possibly deer and goats) and plant fragments.

The Ötzi mystery seems to be attracting more and more the attention of scientists from very different fields. Ötzi’s ancestor is located in a region of Sardinia and shows the presence of a migration stream in the Copper Age.

The equipment he wore enabled him to face the potential challenges of high mountains. He wore clothes made of goatskin and vegetable fibers and a hat made of bearskin. One of his tools was a copper ax. Also a bow, arrows and a dagger made of lithic material.

This is the reconstruction of the man who lived 5000 years ago.
This is the reconstruction of the man who lived 5000 years ago.
Remains that speak to us

His body was adorned with 61 tattoos of various lines and crosses. According to the researchers, these designs had a therapeutic purpose and were located in pain-sensitive areas. Hence, they could be viewed as a primitive form of acupuncture.

The information that Ötzi contains tells not only about him, but also about his surroundings. In this way, the study of pollen enabled us to approximate the vegetation typical of the Alps in the Copper Age. And also date his death at the beginning of summer.

The strange case of Ötzi’s mummy opens a chest of incalculable wealth. His discovery can be compared to that of Madeleine’s cloak or the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Millennia of our history are summarized at its height of 1.60 meters. Pathologies (both in the intestines and in the dental area), diet, interpersonal violence, business or migration occur. Everything that makes us human and what the remains of a man who lived 5,300 years ago continue to tell us.

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